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dante-x
02-13-2006, 06:45 AM
The old man stood before me, aged and weathering, his head no longer holding the wit that once drew praise.

Or


The old man stood before me, aged and weathered, his head no longer held the wit that once drew praise.

One of the criticisms that I have received repeatedly is tense agreement problems. I want to correct this, but I also don't want to take away from flow unnecessarily. Which tense is more correct for the verbs? Why?

dragonjax
02-13-2006, 07:50 AM
"The old man stood before me, aged and weathered, his head no longer holding the wit that once drew praise."

dante-x
02-13-2006, 09:57 AM
I take it you prefer that one Dragon, me too. The sentences that I used though were not for a piece just a made up example. I guess I am trying to figure out not only which of the two is gramatically correct, and which of the two is more readable. I am not part of a critique group at the moment, and am gettting my critique from other native english speakers I befriend in my travels. (Perhaps it is best if I just post a first chapter on the boards.)

katee
02-13-2006, 10:08 AM
Which tense is more correct for the verbs? Why?
When a verb ends with "ing" it's progressive. This means that the action that the verb is conveying is happening continously.

If you use "aged and weathering" in your sentence, you give the impression that the man is weathering (read: becoming weathered) right before your very eyes.

You might like to read http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/writcent/hypergrammar/usetense.html for more information.

Hope this helped!

luxintenebrae
02-13-2006, 10:41 AM
The old man stood before me, aged and weathering, his head no longer holding the wit that once drew praise.

Or


The old man stood before me, aged and weathered, his head no longer held the wit that once drew praise.

One of the criticisms that I have received repeatedly is tense agreement problems. I want to correct this, but I also don't want to take away from flow unnecessarily. Which tense is more correct for the verbs? Why?

The first one makes more sense to me mostly because the second one is a run-on sentence. "His head no longer holding the wit that once drew praise" is a fragment; therefore, it's ok to leave it in the sentence since it completes the thought about the old man in the beginning. However, if you rewrote the second one without, "aged and weather," it would read "The old man stood before me, his head no longer held the wit that once drew praise." See, there should be a semicolon (or a period), not a coma. (I don't know if you were asking about this part of the sentence or not.)

I also agree with Katee about the "aged and weathering" thing. I think "aged and weathered" makes more sense.

dante-x
02-13-2006, 12:29 PM
Sorry Dragon, misread your post :o

Katee great link, this issue had bothered me for sometime. Odd that I should know the breakdown of tenses in other languages, but be unable to classify them in my own. The past progressive was giving me a headache. :) Bookmarked!

Aside: "aged and weathered" , yeah better depending on what the writer wants to convey. I am a fantasy writer, so rapid aging before one's eyes is not out of the world of possibilities. -though I just made up the example for the purpose of this thread.

Thanks for your responses. Further discussion about tenses might prove useful.

Cheers

A. J. Luxton
02-13-2006, 01:00 PM
Actually, I'd go with:

The old man stood before me, aged and weathering, his head no longer holding the wit that had once drawn praise.

So many people forget the past-past tense -- and it drives me nuts!

Sticklingly,

--A.J.

dragonjax
02-13-2006, 06:00 PM
Oooh...AJ's onto something. How about:

"The old man stood before me, aged and weathered, his head no longer holding the wit that once had drawn praise."

MadScientistMatt
02-13-2006, 06:12 PM
I take it you prefer that one Dragon, me too. The sentences that I used though were not for a piece just a made up example. I guess I am trying to figure out not only which of the two is gramatically correct, and which of the two is more readable. I am not part of a critique group at the moment, and am gettting my critique from other native english speakers I befriend in my travels. (Perhaps it is best if I just post a first chapter on the boards.)

Both the originals contain gramatical mistakes, although they're different mistakes in each case. Dragonjax posted the correct version.

dante-x
02-13-2006, 07:33 PM
So in an attempt to better understand the mechanics behind this, i'll try to break down Dragon's example.


Notes on this: Perhaps thinking of the this in chunks of sentence and agreeing the tense after. “The old man stood before me, aged and weathered” (Past tense) “his head no longer holding the wit” (the progressive verb) “that once had drawn praise” ("had drawn" verb agreement with "that once")

Am I correct in seeing it this way?

reph
02-13-2006, 11:41 PM
“The old man stood before me": past tense

"aged and weathered”: these are participial adjectives

“his head no longer holding the wit”: another participial adjective

“that once had drawn praise”: past perfect

Dante, the verbs to check for agreement are "stood" and "had drawn." If you start with "stood," you need to finish with "had drawn."

The other words, "aged," "weathered," and "holding," are independent. They aren't governed by another verb in the sentence, as "stood" governs "had drawn." Suppose you change the main verb, "stood," to present tense:

The old man stands before me, aged and weathered, his head no longer holding the wit that once drew praise.
See? Nothing else changes but "had drawn," which moves from past perfect to simple past.

dante-x
02-13-2006, 11:47 PM
Thanks Reph, crystal clear

reph
02-14-2006, 12:00 AM
I'm not sure "participial adjective" is the correct label for "holding." "Holding" is the progressive participial form of "hold," certainly, but in the sentence it does have a direct object, "wit." Is it some kind of verb? Such doubt is the reason I try to call for real grammarians when advanced help is needed.

luxintenebrae
02-14-2006, 02:46 AM
Yes, I believe "holding" here would simply be a verb; it would only be a participle if it were used as an adjective, which it's not. (As far as I can tell.)

Good point about the past perfect tense, A. J.! I hate those because they can get confusing, and I usually forget to put them in. Good catch! :)

katee
02-14-2006, 02:59 AM
I'm not sure "participial adjective" is the correct label for "holding." "Holding" is the progressive participial form of "hold," certainly, but in the sentence it does have a direct object, "wit." Is it some kind of verb? Such doubt is the reason I try to call for real grammarians when advanced help is needed.
I think it's a gerund phrase, though I could be entirely wrong.

I base my conclusion on one of the differences between gerund phrases and participle verb phrases - gerund phrases can be clefted, but participle verb phrases cannot.

The clefted form is:
It was his head that was no longer holding the wit.

luxintenebrae
02-14-2006, 03:58 AM
Gerunds act like nouns, so for "holding" to be a gerund, it would have to be: "Holding hands is fun." Or "Swimming is my favorite thing." That's what I understood from this great site I just found, so let me know if I interpreted it wrong because it's been a while since I've reviewed any of this stuff!

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_verbals.html

reph
02-14-2006, 04:25 AM
"Holding" isn't a gerund. Luxintenebrae is right about that. But I don't think it's "just" a verb, either. "No longer holding the wit" is an adjectival phrase modifying "head." The word that attaches the phrase to "head" is "holding." Doesn't that make "holding" a participial adjective? This is my best guess.

A grammar board without real grammarians? The Novels board has real novelists. The Freelance board has real freelancers. Anyone know how to hold a seance and raise the spirits of Fowler and Partridge?

It just occurred to me that a Fowler and a Partridge ought not to be in the same room at the same time, especially if a Cheney is nearby.

dragonjax
02-14-2006, 04:30 AM
It just occurred to me that a Fowler and a Partridge ought not to be in the same room at the same time, especially if a Cheney is nearby.

::SNORT::

:ROFL:

katee
02-14-2006, 05:07 AM
Gerunds act like nouns, so for "holding" to be a gerund, it would have to be: "Holding hands is fun." Or "Swimming is my favorite thing." That's what I understood from this great site I just found, so let me know if I interpreted it wrong because it's been a while since I've reviewed any of this stuff!
That's exactly what I thought too, until I read about the clefting distinction between gerunds and participle verb phrases.

luxintenebrae
02-14-2006, 05:51 AM
Can you explain clefting? I don't think I've ever heard of that.

luxintenebrae
02-14-2006, 05:53 AM
Also, sometimes it helps to diagram the sentence. I know, aaahhh!!!!! :tongue But sometimes it can make things clearer as to what's modifying what. I still am having a hard time seeing "holding" as anything other than a verb. I can see that the whole phrase modifies "man," but the phrase seems to have a verb. The head is holding wit (well, not holding actually). I don't know, I'll wait to see what clefting is.

katee
02-14-2006, 11:45 AM
Can you explain clefting? I don't think I've ever heard of that.
Just to make sure I got this right, I've pulled out one of my Uni textbooks - English Grammar: Principles and Facts, second edition.

There are two types of sentences in English - canonical and uncanonical. Canonical sentences are the standard, run-of-the-mill sentences - a noun phrase followed by a verb phrase, for those who like to diagram sentences.

In contrast, uncanonical sentences have don't have the basic NP + VP structure. A cleft sentence is uncanonical.

Examples of cleft sentences:
It was Molly who found the baby.
It may have been me who made the mistake.
What Molly found was the dirty nappy.
What I saw was the boat.

A cleft sentence tends to be used for a particular effect - in the first example the sentence "Molly found the baby" has the same meaning but the cleft version puts the focus firmly on Molly. The cleft sentence also contains an assumption - in the first example, the assumption is that the baby was found. My textbook details how to determine the assumption in a cleft sentence, but I won't go into here (I'm worried I hear the sound of snoring!)

So, I found reference to the difference between particple verb phrases and gerunds (ie that gerunds can be clefted), and based my assumption on that. I'm *very* willing to be wrong on this!

(But boy, did I enjoy chasing this down ... I love this forum!)

katee
02-15-2006, 01:10 AM
This has been bothering me ... I must be wrong, it must be a adjectival phrase. *sigh* I hate being wrong!

Anyhow, the reason I've swung back to it being a adjectival phrase is because you can substitute another adjective for it

The original fragment was:
his head no longer holding the wit

And you can substitute another adjective for 'no longer holding the wit', eg:
his head downcast

I'd love to hear from a proper grammarian though...

luxintenebrae
02-15-2006, 03:10 AM
Thanks for explaining it, Katee. I love this forum too, though I have a headache now from trying to figure this out! It's fun, though. :tongue

Jamesaritchie
02-15-2006, 04:19 AM
Actually, I'd go with:

The old man stood before me, aged and weathering, his head no longer holding the wit that had once drawn praise.

So many people forget the past-past tense -- and it drives me nuts!

Sticklingly,

--A.J.

While this sentence is technically correct, there's a great reason most forget past-past. For me, it has the clarity of mud when used too much. "Aged and weathering" may be technically correct in this context, but it still reads poorly. Use simple past, or use present, and let it go at that.